The Middletown Historical Society makes 2023 the "Year of the Farmer" in tribute to the community's agricultural roots. A Jan. 29 talk at 2 pm is planned from the Middletown Public Library, 700 West Main Road about Coggeshall-Simmons Farm. #MiddletownRI
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KEEPING THE PAST ALIVE TODAY
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (JANUARY 24, 2023) – This is the “Year of the Farmer” for the Middletown Historical Society.
Paying homage and respects to the people who helped build Middletown, the historical society is sponsoring a series of speakers in coming weeks focused on the community’s agricultural roots.
The first about the Coggeshall-Simmons Farm is slated for Jan. 29 at 2 pm from the Middletown Public Library, 700 West Main Road. Known today as Simmons Farm, the operation at 1942 West Main Road is the oldest active farm in Middletown, tracing its past back to the 1600s.
Others talks include the history of the Rodrigues’ farm on Green End Avenue as well as Newport Vineyards, with additional sessions in the works.
“These are the people and places that made Middletown,” historical society President Mary Dennis said. “Middletown is known for its agricultural foundation, but these people influenced us in so many ways — our government, our schools, our socializing, our religion. When you start looking back at it, they helped set the foundation for Middletown to become the place it is today.”
The upcoming speaker series is just one of the many different ways the all volunteer historical society works to preserve Middletown’s past.
During the winter, the historical society headquarters in the old Paradise Schoolhouse in Paradise Valley Park is open Wednesdays from 9-11 am.
The schoolhouse is loaded with all sorts of memories of Middletown from a collection of old tools used in the fields, farms and homes to the names of those families who helped the town get its start.
Another area offers old photos of Naval Station Newport and other Middletown properties and there are countless books and artifacts from Middletown’s history.
Virtual tours of Boyd’s Windmill in Paradise Valley Park and the historic Witherbee School at the corner of Green End Avenue and Valley Road are also available through the nonprofit’s website https://www.middletownhistoricalsociety.org/online.
To give to the historical society, visit the group’s website or mail checks to PO Box 4196, Middletown, RI 02842.
The historical society President Dennis said every dollar helps keep the history of Middletown alive and relevant to today’s generations.
“Farming was a big part of how Middletown developed economically, but it’s so much more than that,” Dennis said. “They built our heritage, our customs and influenced who we are today.”
As much as possible, Dennis said the historical society works to connect the past to younger generations. The Witherbee School exhibit is one classic case, she said. The historical society is currently looking for a volunteer liaison to the School Department to assist with the Witherbee and related programs.
“When the fourth graders come in, they’re all about their screens and then they sit and listen and learn about what it was like to be in a one-room schoolhouse,” Dennis said. “To watch our teachers lead them and there’s a change as they’re taken back in time. It’s such a magical thing to watch and experience.”
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/6755/NYCU-Farmer